Dr. Core (core@pojo.com)
Tue, 23 Jan 2001 14:09:23 +0100

ok I was going to write a LONG email/column sometime next week, but heck
I know it's just going to get infinitely delayed, so here's just a quickie,
any grandiose arguments and reasoning.

-Z- wrote:
> > >I have a hard time with that one, considering that "Yuri" or even
> "Yurie" is
> > >valid name in both Japanese and Russian.
> >
> > Sure, but I think Fa is supposed to be of Chinese descent.
>In which case "Yuiry" makes even less sense. "Yu-Ling" maybe...?

AFAIK, the Taiwanese and Hong Kongese translators are united (a most
rare occurence) in translating her name as "Fa Yeung Li" (this particular
spelling in a "Core-original", which is based on something-Gilles-something
romanization, -Z- knows what I am talking about). More important than the
spelling is the words. It is "flower-garden/park-beauty", or
Each of the three words, esp. "Fa" as family name, are commonly used in
Chinese names. But the combination is a little unusual, but not implausible
(I have seen a lot of truly ghastly Chinese names). In particular, it's a very
homely, humble name for a girl.

What I am most concerned about is that I have not seen her names in Kanji
in any Japanese books, again I could be quite wrong, but "Fa Yeung Li" could
be the result of Chinese translators getting too excited about a Chinese
character in Gundam. In contrast, Mirai and Hayato each have their names
written in Kanji all the time. OTHO, if you listen to the dialogues in Z
and ZZ,
the pronounciation is very compellingly Chinese and un-Japanese and most
definitely un-Russian. Besides, Yuri in Russian is male, I believe.

IF I am right that Fa Yeung Li never had her name written in Kanji in Japanese
books, than it deserves some thought as to the whole idea of translating G
character names. This leds to the title of my post.

While appreciating the importance of making some sense out of this whole
Englsih spelling mess, and especially the difficult task taken up by Mark,
Burke, -Z- and others, I also feel a bit blase about this whole bussiness.
Japanese English is a mess, I won't even get into any of that, you can found
enough humourous example on the web. Gundam names are particularly
messy and will continue to be messy even after this current discussion is
"settled". And it will continue to be messy after First Gundam airs. So
many "official" books have been published that are at best semi-sensible
inter-book-wise and intra-book-wise. It seems a Bandai hobby on its own
to invent new spelling for 20-year-old mechs.

What I am saying is that Bandai/Sunrise doesn't give a hoot about
consistency in Romanizing names, and we must understand that. Some
but not most names are meant to have real foreign meanings (Chinese,
English, German, Hindu); for those we can comfortably spell them, (hmm
except for Chinese... and German, Kampfer or Ka:mpfer or Kaempfer).
The case of German is important, because so many reallife European
names get severly corrupted when the immigrant waves hit N. America,
the same Polish, Russian, Czech, even French names got Anglized into
so many different forms, often bearing no phonetic semblance to the
original pronounciations. The classical example is Roy, most Canadians
knows that it's pronunced as Raa (like the Egyptian sun god with a long A).
But a lot of Americans of French descent go around telling people they
are Mr./Ms. Roy (as in royal).

And I don't even want get on the case of Chinese names... the same
colonial government decided to give me and my father different spellings
of the family name (Chin for me, Chien for pop), and then gave us no end
of trouble for not being legally father and son (thankfully I am over 18 now).

Another side note about translating names, HK and Taiwanese translators
(each are "official" in the sense that the TV networks and publishers
individually obtained license from Bandai) make it a kind of cold wars of
a sort to translate mecha and chara names differently. Each are following
a well-defined long-traditioned philosophies of translating names. The
disputes between fans across the strait sometimes get rather nasty even.
So even for orientals who are much more knowledgable about Japanese
than Westerners, it's still very tricky.

IMHO, the only "gold standard" is the kana names. In some cases, exact
translation into another language is clear, such as Peacecraft or Wufei (in
Chinese). But most of the time, anything other than the kana/kanji names
must be considered an approximation only. Just as "Chin" can only be an
approximation of my real name.

Anglizing foreign names was, is and will always be a fuzzy science. So
my approach is to be dogmatically "anything goes"!

>> Haman Karn
> "Khan" still works better for me. It's more descriptive and, of course,

My view is that "Khan" should taken as a 99% officially correct spelling.
It's helped by (1) fits the personality, (2) Haman is probably a sensible
Mongolian name in the views of Tomino/Yadate. What's lacking in making
it 100% official is (1) Tomino/Yadate/Yaz coming outright and explain the
original of the name, (2) her complexion is not well defined, but I suppose
Mongolians are often pale?

> Shakti Kareen (Usually either Shahkti or Shaakti, but it's an
> Yes, it is. Shakti means "power" or "energy" but represents the Female
> Principle in Hinduism -- the equivalent of Yin in Buddhism -- and is

This case is 99.9999% strong, IMHO, she's stereotypically brown, and if
any female character in the Gundam Universes deserve to be named Shakti,
she is IT.

Has any Japanese reader (Mark?) seen "official" explanations of these two

>> Cronicle Asher
> I prefer "Chronicle" but only because it's a real word. Have I mentioned my
> fondness for real words?

This is where I have to get dogmatic and disagree with -Z-, I think we should
be extra careful NOT to extrapolate the katakana into English words, despite
the fact that Japanese do have a tendency to worship the great US of A. If
we were to take real words/names as proper than we must be compelled to
use Charles or at least Charlie for the Red Comet. Especially "Charles"
since we know officially he was named after the French singer. But he's still
Char, or even Sha, because Tomino/Yaz intended Char to be just Char, not a
short form or pet form of Charles. This is important, overall I detected a lot
of deliberate un-Anglizing of names by Tomino and Yaz, especially in 0079
and Z, so many names are tantalizingly English, but they are NOT English.
Whatever their intention was (perhaps it's a common thing in anime in
general?), we should take heed of that.

The lack of Kanji names for Fa Yuri factors into this in a big way, Fa (and
other characters in UC Gundam) may have definite racial ancestry,
but perhaps Tomino/Yaz wanted to suggest that the race of their ancestry
is de-emphasized in the UC and that everyone's names are melted into
an unspecified future world language, for which katakana is used to represent
approximately. The big wrench in this theory is V Gundam, that whole
show flavours English as the future world language. But still V Gundam
gave us a big share of spelling controversy, there's food for thought in one

Allow me another argument against over-Anglizing of names. If we were
to flavour real English or European names or words, than we should accept
Quatre Virgina (pronounced as Ver-Geena, not ve(t)-gia-na). Virginia is
unacceptable because the Katakana spelling of Virginia is well-known and
has different kanas from Virgina. It might even be a crass prophecy to say
Char will get four girlfriends (beating Amuro's one (or none)). So if the
sound fits and the meaning fits (yeah it's a bit sick), why don't we use it?
The same reason I oppose making Cronicle Chronicle.

Dr. Core
Brain Surgeon/Rocket Scientist
Newtype Asylum

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